In November 2017, Becky Westerfelt, executive director of Huckleberry House, participated in a Columbus Metropolitan Club panel titled “Unexpected Face of Homelessness: Teens on the Street.” We were overwhelmed by the interest from community members to continue the conversation. So we  invited interested people to a casual lunch at the Huck House Crisis Shelter this afternoon.

One of the points Becky made during the panel discussion in November was that we know these children before they turn 18. We see them in our schools and after school programs and at our outreach programs. We should not be surprised to see them in homeless or unstably housed situations when they turn 18. Instead of treating them like they are someone else’s children, central Ohio needs to think of young people as belonging to all of us.

Today’s conversation was based on a framing question:

In our everyday lives, how can we help a child who is not in our immediate family?

A few of the thoughts shared by our guests included

  • Help them make healthy connections to healthy adults
  • We don’t give up on our own children, why do we give up on children who don’t have resources?
  • Just listen
  • Be intentional about where you are – do you put yourself in places where you can be a positive influence on young people?
  • Think of ways to create experiences for young people who may not have the chance to experience things you do in your daily life
  • Call people by their names

Some great ideas came out of today’s discussion. We asked our guests to share their thoughts and reflections in the comments section of this blog post. Read on to see what they had to say. And, please add your own thoughts and reactions.

P.S. Look for a community challenge from Huck House, coming soon!

6 replies
  1. Kim Stands
    Kim Stands says:

    Stepping out of the fast lane! Slowing down, I will see a young person right next to me. Waiting to be seen, acknowledged and listened to. I can, if I choose to, start today!

    Huck House, thank you for challenging me.

    • John Dehmer
      John Dehmer says:

      Amazing meeting! Thank you!

      From the faith perspective, a pastor once told me, “when we coach, mentor, teach, or care for children we are glorifying God and loving our neighbor. “

      Another pastor I knew had one burning concern for youngsters, do they have a friend to connect with. A friend to share life with. A friend removes isolation and brings hope and laughter

      Lastly, be intentional to ask children how they are doing and to feel valuable.

  2. Thomas Zani
    Thomas Zani says:

    The world can be so serious and as adults, we sometimes expect our youth to see life in the same fashion. I have found that going back to being a kid and having some childhood fun with children goes a long way towards being able to interact well with youth of any age. Seeing a child waiting in a line at a supermarket and being annoyed, I make it a point to say, I hate waiting too. I would rather be doing something fun. Relating to their lives and experiences to that point in their lives is important. No, children do not always have things to complain about (some really do), but behaving with a youthful spirit is helpful and I do not think enough grown ups do that. Interacting with children on their level gives us a break from our stresses as well.

  3. Sonya
    Sonya says:

    I am thinking in particular of one teen I have known since he was young. He sort of drifts in and out of our family’s life and right now I don’t really know where he is. I have known his parents for many years and I have seen them struggling with their busy lives and their careers to engage with their son in a meaningful way. Because he is not poor or living on the streets, he is not on anyone’s radar as needing attention or help. But my interactions with him always nudge at me – he needs an adult in his life, someone who can engage with him and listen to him and support him no matter what. I am thinking now about how to talk to him, what sort of help I can offer, when this young man drifts back in to our lives.

    One of the guests at lunch talked about inviting a student to live in their home. An amazing and life changing act! I don’t know that I can take on that sort of responsibility for other children right now. I have two of my own. But, I want to help in some way, even if it is just sending the message that someone cares.

    I also think we need to know how to share community resources with young people. (If anyone wants a bag of Huck House wristbands with the crisis phone number on them, I am happy to share – they are easy to give to young people you meet.)

  4. Maria Armstrong
    Maria Armstrong says:

    Thank you for putting this meeting together, Huck House! I really appreciated the opportunity to step off the office treadmill for a bit and listen to some dedicated and innovative community advocates talk about what really matters. As a mom and a college professor, I am very privileged to spend time with lots of young adults. But this meeting made me realize the value of just taking a few seconds to reach out to a youth who might not have a strong network of adults for support. I will take up this challenge!

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